France Slated to Impose Tax on Digital Companies’ Revenue

The French government introduced a three percent tax on the revenue of technology companies such as Google and Amazon that offer e-commerce or targeted advertising in France. Experts estimate that the tax could reap “billions of dollars” from Silicon Valley companies. The tax is also likely to come up as a topic of conversation in U.S. and European talks, convened by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about corporate taxes in the digital age. Europe is pushing to tax Silicon Valley companies on profits made there. Continue reading France Slated to Impose Tax on Digital Companies’ Revenue

Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Spotify, Google, Pandora and Amazon have joined forces to appeal a decision of the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) they believe “harms both music licensees and copyright owners.” In separate filings, the companies are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review the decision regarding “recently issued … U.S. mechanical statutory rates” that they said “raises serious procedural and substantive concerns.” With the rule as it stands, songwriters would receive a 44 percent increase in payments. Proponents suggest the rule is necessary for songwriters in a digital age. Continue reading Tech Companies Appeal an Increase in Songwriter Royalties

Elizabeth Warren Introducing Plan to Break Up Tech Giants

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is proposing “a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook,” according to The New York Times. “The proposal … calls for the appointment of regulators who would ‘unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,’ as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.” The plan would also call for the rollback of tech acquisitions, “including Facebook’s deals for WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s addition of Whole Foods, and Google’s purchase of Waze.” Continue reading Elizabeth Warren Introducing Plan to Break Up Tech Giants

Google GPipe Library Speeds Deep Neural Network Training

Google has unveiled GPipe, an open-sourced library that makes training deep neural networks more efficient under the TensorFlow framework Lingvo for sequence modeling. According to Google AI software engineer Yanping Huang, “in GPipe … we demonstrate the use of pipeline parallelism to scale up DNN training,” noting that larger DNN models “lead to better task performance.” Huang and his colleagues published a paper on “Efficient Training of Giant Neural Networks Using Pipeline Parallelism.” Continue reading Google GPipe Library Speeds Deep Neural Network Training

Luminary Launches With Plan to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Luminary is a podcast startup that has debuted with more than 40 exclusive shows and no ads. The company also has almost $100 million in funding and, for $8 per month, subscribers will get full access to the content lineup, which includes a new show from Lena Dunham and series from Conan O’Brien, Malcolm Gladwell and Trevor Noah. Co-founder/chief executive Matt Sacks stated that Luminary aims to be “synonymous with podcasting in the same way Netflix has become synonymous with streaming.” Continue reading Luminary Launches With Plan to Be the Netflix of Podcasts

Password-Free Logins Getting Closer to Becoming a Reality

WebAuthn, with the approval of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the FIDO Alliance, just became an official web standard for password-free logins. After W3C and the FIDO Alliance first introduced it in November 2015, WebAuthn gained the support of many W3C contributors including Airbnb, Alibaba, Apple, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, PayPal, SoftBank, Tencent and Yubico. With WebAuthn, which is supported by Android and Windows 10, users can log-in via biometrics, mobile devices or FIDO security keys. Continue reading Password-Free Logins Getting Closer to Becoming a Reality

Consumers Are Adopting Smartwatches and Fitness Bands

Consumers around the world are warming to wearables, including activity trackers, fitness bands and smartwatches. IDC reports that the global wearables market increased more than 31 percent during Q4 2018, representing a new record of 59.3 million units. Total shipments of 172.2 million units for 2018 mark a 27.5 percent jump over the previous year (although IDC now includes ‘hearables’ such as headphones and earbuds in its calculations). Apple led the charge with 16.2 million devices shipped in Q4 2018, 10.4 million of which were Apple Watches. Continue reading Consumers Are Adopting Smartwatches and Fitness Bands

YouTube Disables Comments For Videos That Include Kids

After major brands including AT&T, Disney, Epic Games and Nestlé suspended their regular ad spending on YouTube, the popular video platform has made a move to temporarily disable comment sections on most video channels that feature children 13 and younger as well as teenagers that may risk “attracting predatory behavior.” The concern was that advertising was sometimes positioned along videos with minors that included predatory remarks in the comments sections. A few select channels will have comment sections that remain enabled, but will require monitoring for safety. Continue reading YouTube Disables Comments For Videos That Include Kids

Google Adopts Open-Source, Secure Password-Less Logins

The FIDO Alliance, a consortium for open source authentication standards, is trying to make passwords obsolete, expanding its secure login protocols. Its efforts were boosted by Google’s announcement that it added certified support for the FIDO2 standard, impacting the vast majority of devices running Android 7 or later. That means owners of these Android 7-based devices should be able to log in seamlessly without passwords on mobile browsers such as Chrome. Websites can now be designed to interact with FIDO2 management. Continue reading Google Adopts Open-Source, Secure Password-Less Logins

Facebook’s Latest Misstep: Culling Data From Popular Apps

Many smartphone users provide personal data to apps, from intimate health information to shopping habits. What the users don’t know is that Facebook culls the data seconds after they enter it, even if they have no connection to Facebook. Eleven popular apps, which have been downloaded millions of times, have been sharing data with Facebook — without any obvious disclosure to users providing that sensitive data. The revelation of that information has created a shakeup at Facebook and the involved apps. Continue reading Facebook’s Latest Misstep: Culling Data From Popular Apps

Facebook Hit with FTC Complaint on Children’s In-App Buys

Seventeen groups, including Common Sense Media, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that Facebook has deliberately duped children into making in-app purchases on games including “Angry Birds,” “PetVille” and “Ninja Saga.” The purchases were often made without parental permission, and Facebook makes it “nearly impossible” for parents seeking refunds. The accusation originates in a 2012 class-action lawsuit. Continue reading Facebook Hit with FTC Complaint on Children’s In-App Buys

Samsung Reveals New Galaxy Phones, Including a Foldable

Samsung introduced four new Galaxy phones this week, one of which will work on 5G networks and three of which will have somewhat larger screens and more sophisticated camera systems. The company is also teasing a fifth device that is foldable. With regard to larger sizes, Samsung is offering the S10 and S10 Plus, with 6.1-inch and 6.4-inch displays respectively, compared to the S9 and S9 Plus’ screen sizes of 5.8 inches and 6.2 inches. Larger screen size was achieved without enlarging the devices’ body sizes. Continue reading Samsung Reveals New Galaxy Phones, Including a Foldable

Google Debuts Deep Planning Network Agent with DeepMind

Google unveiled the Deep Planning Network (PlaNet) agent, created in collaboration with DeepMind, to provide reinforcement learning via images. Reinforcement learning uses rewards to improve AI agents’ decision-making. Whereas model-free techniques work by getting agents to predict actions from observations, agents created with model-based reinforcement learning come up with a general model of the environment leveraged for decision-making. In unfamiliar surroundings, however, agents must create rules from experience. Continue reading Google Debuts Deep Planning Network Agent with DeepMind

Advertisers to Spend More on Digital Than Traditional Media

New estimates from eMarketer indicate that advertisers in the U.S. will spend more on digital advertising through the likes of Facebook and Google in 2019 than traditional media such as television, radio and newspapers. Advertisers are expected to spend in excess of $129 billion on digital advertising this year as compared to the more than $109 billion they will spend on traditional advertising. The shift would mark the first time in history that digital advertising would comprise more than half of the U.S. ad market. Continue reading Advertisers to Spend More on Digital Than Traditional Media

Japan’s Recruit Aims to Compete With Top Global Websites

In Japan, Recruit Holdings, the center of a corporate scandal that ended with the ousting of the prime minister, is being put back together by a group of employees. Whereas the former Recruit was a magazine publisher and job-placement firm, the new version is an Internet behemoth that combines the capabilities of LinkedIn, Zillow, Yelp, eHarmony, Booking.com, Square and many other apps. Recruit chief executive Masumi Minegishi is betting the company has the experience and resources to dominate consumer spending by 2030. Continue reading Japan’s Recruit Aims to Compete With Top Global Websites

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